THE BLASTED DESERT Chapter Eight

14 Feb

8. THE BATH

Imageous found himself being physically picked up and laid on the bench-like bed in the ambulance that was waiting for him on a car-park behind Brumpton police station.

It was humiliating. What grown man in his seventies wants to be picked up like that? Even the lice and allied insects that still held court in his knotted beard and overflowing locks were offended, and for good reason as discovery of them led directly to the use of a toxic spray which they did not like at all.

Then there was all the noise as the ambulance raced off.

Imageous wasn’t totally ignorant. He’d seen motor vehicles before, not many but occasionally, through his cell window, and quite recently he’d been almost mowed down by two of them and hooted at by a third. But the sense of movement as the ambulance raced off was beyond his experience in much the same way as a gentle young woman saying come here, big boy would be way beyond anything he understood from recent experiences.

He began to wish the gigantic feathered bird that had dissolved into multicoloured smoke would come back, grab him by anything even if it hurt, and carry him off into the big blue yonder. But no bird, gigantic or black, threatened to come his way, and the aerosol squirting went on.

The journey to hospital took only a few minutes and was a nightmare. The howling sound, shrieking worse than any nightmare banshee that Imageous had ever encountered during the most fearsome of fearsome nights rose and fell and yowled like some foetid creature in pain. And when the vehicle finally came to a halt with a great deal of its passengers breakfast of baked beans on toast in a messy pile on the floor that passenger thought he had passed beyond the veil of life into the interminable land of death, and he was rather hoping it wasn’t so much Heaven as the other place, the one he feared to name.

It was neither. It was Brumpton General Hospital, which had a secure ward occasionally required by the police for the repair of desperadoes. And it was to that ward that a shambling mini-skirted septuagenarian with an incomprehensibly huge bush of facial hair was made to teeter.

The shower he had been forced to endure the night before was in no way any kind of preparation for the bath he was about to be obliged to take.

The paper work, his admittance and notes about him, didn’t take so long because he was still a considerable enigma, and he was marched (that’s probably the right word) to a bathroom which had, as its main objet d’art, a bath. It was white, shiny, clearly antiseptically clean and had, so far as Imageous could see, no obvious function in a world where hygiene had never been anywhere near the top of his agenda for life. It was, in fact, a shiny waste of space that would have been better occupied by the presence in its place of a dusty table and manuscript paper together with quills and copying inks in assorted colours.

There were two other people in that room, both in almost identical uniforms with bumps that indicated that their gender was different from his own.

Maybe a little enlightenment is called for here. Imageous was far from ignorant as to the existence and function of the fairer sex, though in truth it was probably half a century since he had been acquainted with a single one. But back in his youth the Monastery had existed as a refuge for fallen women and it was amazing how many fell into it for a peculiar kind of refuge there back in what a thought in his head suggested were the good old days, and they brought their special skills and talents with them. Imageous himself had spent a considerable number of hours consoling several of them (one at the time) and enjoying some of the ways in which they expressed their gratitude for his efforts and the payment he was able to proffer in the form of divine forgiveness for sins he barely understood despite the fact he was committing them as well.

But those years were long past. Since then the Brotherhood had fallen to the wrath of demons and many Brother had died in strange agony whilst others had wandered off, lost to the world and to sense. Now there were very few left and Imageous had only met the younger Caspianus recently, however long recently might be, and Caspianus was far from sensible and little more than a messenger for the Boss, one Father Superior who himself was absurdly old and mentally feeble despite still being fond of strict discipline. There may have been other Brothers and maybe even the odd novice, but he hadn’t met one recently.

So he knew about the fair sex, all right, or rather had memories to fall back on if knowledge was necessary. And those memories were indeed ancient and consisted entirely of experiences with prostitutes, a subset of society that he greatly admired for reasons he didn’t like to think about.

And here were two females, smartly dressed in unbelievably clean uniforms, fixing protective plastic aprons in place on top of those uniforms.

“Take your clothes off,” said one of the nurses in the kind of voice that demanded obedience.

Imageous had taken his clothes off a long age ago at the request of the fallen ladies he cared for and he had taken them off with grotesque willingness, but those had been different days and he had been a different Imageous. He knew a few things about himself, how his skin was far from perfect and often raged with pain, how his legs had become unbelievable spindly and ugly, how his facial hair obscured any decent features he might possess. Why, it was difficult to even make out his eyes, which had lost their more attractive intelligent glow. He knew this. It was part of living a Holy life. Time changed a man, even a monk.

But it meant that her had no intention of undressing in front of these women, even if they both undressed in front of him, which seemed unlikely. So he simply shook his head and remained immobile.

He soon discovered that the truth was he was a far from strong man with quite useless muscles and there were two of them, fierce and determined.

“Now don’t you be silly!” snapped the nurse, “you’ve got nothing that we haven’t seen before, and we’ve seen plenty of them!”

He had, and he knew it. He had sores that could really hurt just about everywhere, even … he didn’t like to give his genitals a thought, but there was trouble there too. Occasionally painful trouble.

Whilst one of the nurses started turning taps and making water spill into the white receptacle the first one grabbed hold of him and whipped his rather ridiculous kilt off. Then his tee-shirt and finally his boxer shorts.

She had seen many things during her career, but never anything quite like this.

“You poor sod,” she breathed, and rang a bell to summon a doctor.

TO BE CONTINUED…

© Peter Rogerson 01.02.17

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